Description of Service
If enjoyment is what gives writing its popularity, the appeal of rewriting lies in its utility. Rewriting has a problem to solve. Or, when it follows a manuscript assessment, an actionable list of problems to solve.
What is a manuscript assessment?
A manuscript assessment is an in-depth analysis of your manuscript. Your editor will read your manuscript critically, prepare a 3,500-word report on your story, your narrative, your style, your characterisation and your market positioning, and propose market-tested suggestions for development.
The purpose of a manuscript assessment is two-fold. One is to uncover more of what could make a good book better; the other is to give the writer the editorial tools to be better at their craft.
At the Literary Studio, we don’t claim to know what good writing is, but, just like everyone else, we know it when we see it. We also know the secret everyone else knows: good writers are not primarily good writers. They are good editors.
Writing and editing are not only two different activities, they are two different mindsets. The former requires creative thinking, the latter, critical thinking. Learning to sharpen your critical thinking about your own writing is therefore the key to becoming a better writer.
It takes a hard heart to become a critical self-editor, to ‘murder your darlings’, in the words of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a British literary critic. It also takes a lot of practice.
The problem at the core of self-editing is the insufficient distance between the creative writer and the critical editor. When the two are one and the same person, the latter will inescapably know what the former meant to write when they wrote that phrase, that sentence, that scene; what they had in mind about that character; where the story was heading.
Introducing a dispassionate reader to your manuscript is the first step in testing that what you meant to write is what the reader in fact reads. Where it isn’t, an unbiased reader with a wealth of editorial experience and market insight can provide constructive suggestions on how to align the intent with the result.
In this way, a manuscript assessment is to help you rewrite a better book and sharpen your skills in the process. The report is informative in that it informs you of your book’s strengths and weaknesses. It is also transformative because it advises you how to develop the strengths and tackle the weaknesses. It is during this transformation where you get tools, not rules, to become a better writer.
I really appreciated the Literary Studio’s careful reading of my manuscript. I had poured years into crafting the plot and developing the characters and I felt my editor took the time to understand what I was attempting to do from a literary point of view.
My editor was very positive about what worked, balancing this with critiques that were constructive and pointed, rather than harsh. This approach served to help me reflect even more deeply about certain decisions I had made with regard to plot and character development.
One thing that stood out about my feedback was my editor’s stressing about readability. She appreciated the quality of my writing and because of this, wanted to ensure I was not making choices that would cause readers to lose interest in an unwieldy plot. This encouraged me to revisit the manuscript to ensure the main threads were there and doing their jobs, ie., to keep the plot tightly woven and the reader engaged.
What does a manuscript assessment cover?
At assessment stage, you are not looking for a proofreader. You are looking for an uninvested reader with good market knowledge to see the bigger picture of your story, and also the missing detail. The storytelling that would make more sense with some restructuring, the style that could be freed from clunky phrasing, the characters that would convince more if they didn’t skip a few minor steps to get what they wanted, the laboured dialogue line, the awkward transition between two otherwise perfectly immersive scenes or the misplaced signposting of something major to come.
All these are details, the details that could nudge the dial from good to better writing.
In brief, a manuscript assessment report will cover:
Benefits of a manuscript assessment
What is the difference between assessing a manuscript assessment and editing a manuscript?
Asking you to make the changes, rather than the editor making the changes themselves, has the important benefit of showing you how to give your audience what they want. In doing so, this transfer of knowledge, applied to your own writing, becomes a tool for future use.
On the other hand, manuscript editing can speed up the developmental process, but it you will not derive as much educational value as from the manuscript assessment.